Working in the field of women empowerment in Ethiopia inevitably comes with seeing women being physically and mentally oppressed, living in poor conditions, and not getting the opportunity to empower themselves. PROJECT-E (PE) tries to give women with such backgrounds a chance to start a new life by helping them grow, as well as to gain self-independence and self-confidence. We strive to enable women realise their potential and impact their society. Unfortunately, it is still a long way to go: Ethiopian women are less educated, less financially secure and at more risk of oppression than men. However, it seems that the change that PE is pushing for on a small scale is happening right now in Ethiopia’s national politics: on October 25th 2018, the country gained its first female president!
In Ethiopia, women working in public and powerful political positions is a rare find. With the unanimous election of Sahle-Work Zewde as a representative of the country, however, the government is initiating change. Prime minister Abiy Ahmed who has only ruled for a few months, works more and more for peace and emancipation within and outside the country.
Having a woman in the position of president means a lot. Even if the president is not making decisions, Zewde is representing the country, and through this, she as a woman is showing the world how emancipated modern Ethiopia can be. Due to Zewde’s prior experience as a diplomat in Europe and other African countries, she is well equipped for dealing with foreign issues while representing her country on an international level. Her unanimous election by the parliament indicates her qualification. Furthermore, the woman as the head of state represents very well the inner constellation of the current cabinet: as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has appointed new ministers for his cabinet, half of them are women!
Of course, women empowerment in small dimensions as well as in big dimensions isn’t about giving any women a high position just to fulfil a gender quota, but about empowering those who are motivated and qualified. What we can see in the new constellation of the government members of Ethiopia is women empowerment done right: qualified women are taking positions equal to men. In line with the trend of entrusting women with important responsibilities, Aisha Mohammed was appointed as the Head of the Ministry of Defence. Prime Minister Ahmed is proving repeatedly that he trusts his cabinet members and that he is not differentiating between women and men when it comes to the distribution of positions. PE is applauding this conduct while hoping for further improvements regarding gender equality in Ethiopia.
For the students at PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute (PEHI) in Addis Ababa, Sahle-Work Zewde can function as a role model and motivator. Zewde represents the fact that women can go far, if they are ambitious and strive for education.
Written by Katrin Lohse